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West Africa: population movements caused by insecurity

Briefing notes

West Africa: population movements caused by insecurity

17 July 2001

Population movements caused by insecurity in various parts of West Africa continue throughout the region. In Daru, eastern Sierra Leone, UNHCR has registered over 3,000 spontaneous returns of Sierra Leonean refugees from Guinea since July 1, as well as several hundred from Liberia. Among the group from Liberia are also a handful of new Liberian refugees fleeing renewed fighting in Lofa County. Also among the new arrivals are Guinean civilians recently freed by RUF rebels who abducted them earlier this year in raids inside southern Guinea. UNHCR will help repatriate them to Guinea.

Most arrivals have come from the Parrot's Beak region in the south-west of Guinea and cite the closure of camps and the termination of assistance in this area as the main reasons for leaving. They do not report any harassment on the way, indicating that passage through rebel-held areas is now easier. Some returnees are, however, in bad shape, including some cases of severe malnutrition among children. The children are immediately taken to an International Medical Corps supplementary feeding centre in Daru. The children also receive vaccinations, and every returnee undergoes medical screening.

Schools and public buildings in Daru have quickly become overcrowded with new arrivals. UNHCR on Sunday began transferring people to three resettlement sites in the interior of Sierra Leone. We expect to transfer 1,250 people this week.

Fighting in Liberia has also caused some 3,800 Liberian nationals to seek refuge in western Côte d'Ivoire since May. Although small in scale, the inflow has been steady at about 50 persons a day since the situation started deteriorating in Liberia in May. Arrivals from Monrovia or Lofa County, in the north of the country, report police intimidation and forced recruitment by government forces as reasons for leaving. Others coming from Bong County, adjacent to Lofa, are fleeing because they fear that fighting may spread to their region - a well-known rebel stronghold. Some have come to Côte d'Ivoire to meet up with members of their families who are already refugees there. Western Côte d'Ivoire is host to some 70,000 Liberian refugees, out of a total of 120,000 in Côte d'Ivoire.